Yesterday, the divorced Hahamovitch couple made history in the legal world after the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Fourth District Court of Appeal case, Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch (133 So. 3d 1008, 1016 [Fla. 4th DCA 2014]). The court found that prenuptial agreements made before marriage have the ability to protect each spouse’s property, even if has been acquired during the marriage.
Background on Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch
Dianne and Harry Hahamovitch entered into a prenuptial agreement on the 20th of January, 1986, before their marriage. They later married on the 16th of February, 1986, and had two children during their 22-year marriage. On the 6th of February in 2008, they filed for a dissolution of their marriage.
As is common with many divorces and dissolution procedures, division of property raised some issues, especially in the matter of the prenuptial agreement. The wife argued that since the agreement was missing specific references to enhanced value and specific assets, she was entitled to more property during the process of equitable distribution.
Depending on the court’s determination on how the prenuptial agreement would affect the dissolution, the wife stood to receive $1.9 million over seven years, or as much as $10 million.
The Supreme Court’s Decision
After reviewing the language of the couple’s prenuptial agreement, the Fourth District Court of Appeal determined that the wife had waived and released any rights or claims she had to any and all property that was solely owned by her husband.
The key to the court’s decision was that the husband and wife both entered into the agreement willingly, and that the actual language of the prenuptial agreement clearly waived each spouse’s rights and claims on the other spouse’s property.
Despite the wife’s appeal of the ruling, the Fourth District court’s decision was affirmed. In the process, two similar Florida cases involving prenuptial agreements were disapproved: Irwin vs. Irwin (857 So. 2d 247 [Fla. 2d DCA 2003]) and Valdes vs. Valdes (894 So. 2d 264 [Fla. 3d DCA 2004]). In Justice Ricky Polston’s written decision, he states that the distinctions made in these two cases ran contrary to the actual language of the Hahamovitch couple’s agreement.
The Important Question on Prenuptial Agreements in Florida
The appeals court ruling made legal history by answers the following question:
“Where a prenuptial agreement provides that neither spouse will ever claim any interest in the other’s property, states that each spouse shall be the sole owner of property purchased or acquired in his or her name, and contains language purporting to waive and release all rights and claims that a spouse may be entitled to as a result of the marriage, do such provisions serve to waive a spouse’s right to any share of assets titled in the other spouse’s name, even if those assets were acquired during the marriage due to the parties’ marital efforts or appreciated in value during the marriage due to the parties’ marital efforts?”
By answering affirmative, the court ruled that if a spouse enters into a prenuptial agreement where both spouses waive all rights and claims to each other’s property, they also waive all rights and claim to assets acquired by the other spouse during the course of the marriage, provided that said property is titled in the other spouse’s name.
Florida courts ruled to affirm the contract of the prenuptial agreement, but not all prenuptial contracts are created equally. Wonder what this decision means for you? Contact The Virga Law Firm and discuss your situation with a skilled attorney!